Ups & downs

NZ bio­fu­els in­dus­try changes gear af­ter sub­sidy ends.

Element - - Primary Industries - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

Tourist op­er­a­tors and truck­ing com­pa­nies may be un­able to choose bio­fu­els for the next few years, af­ter the end of a gov­ern­ment sub­sidy de­signed to kick-start the in­dus­try.

The Biodiesel Grants Scheme had given a grant of up to 42.5 cents per litre to biodiesel pro­duc­ers. But de­spite lob­by­ing from The Bioen­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion and oth­ers, the gov­ern­ment de­clined to re­new it once the ini­tial three-year scheme came to an end in June. Brian Cox, ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the as­so­ci­a­tion has said the re­sult has been the clo­sure of sev­eral small bio­fuel plants and an end to three years of de­vel­op­ment work at a time when the in­dus­try was start­ing to gain new cus­tomers, par­tic­u­larly in com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle fleets.

“It has changed the dy­nam­ics com­pletely,” he said. “Up un­til now the fo­cus was on get­ting peo­ple used to us­ing bio­fu­els. The grant was help­ing users ac­cess fuel that they could get used to. All of that has stopped. For ex­am­ple, from the point of view of the tourist trade be­ing able to say we are pure green and us­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly locally sourced fuel they can’t get the fuel to be able to do that.

“The fo­cus has now moved to the de­vel­op­ment of more ad­vanced bio­fu­els, which in New Zealand will be prin­ci­pally sourced from woody biomass. But that tech­nol­ogy is a few years away from be­ing able to put fuel on the mar­ket, so we have now got this hia­tus as far as some con­sumers are con­cerned, who will have to wait while the new tech­nolo­gies are de­vel­oped.”

Mean­while, Cox said wood milling com­pa­nies like Norske Skog and Carters are ac­tively look­ing at con­vert­ing their fa­cil­i­ties to bio­fuel pro­duc­tion, a sign that the in­dus­try still has a bright fu­ture. And de­spite the changes, the Gull ser­vice sta­tion chain is con­tin­u­ing to of­fer bio­fuel blended fu­els on its fore­courts around the coun­try made in New Zealand from a nat­u­ral by-prod­uct of the dairy in­dus­try’s ac­tiv­ity, or from su­gar cane grown in Brazil.

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